South African buzz: Hate speech in Durban

By
January 7, 2016 21:14
4 minute read.
South Africa

A VENDOR sells newspapers in South Africa. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

In April 2014, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies laid a complaint against a Durban resident, Snowy Smith, saying that since 2010 he had been sending “extraordinarily offensive” racist emails to an extensive mailing list. Mary Kluk, national chairwoman of the Board, said that “the emails were hurtful and could, if left unchecked, lead to violent acts against Jewish people.”

In evidence, Kluk, said that the material “crossed the line and could not be tolerated in a free and democratically based constitutional democracy.”

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Smith, representing himself, in his defense claimed the emails were protected under “Fair Civil Law” and were not at all anti-Semitic. He also claimed the protection of free speech, fair comment and telling the truth. Furthermore, he was not a Holocaust denier.

Only last November did the Durban Equity Court hand down judgment on the hate speech complaint.

The magistrate, Aletta Moolman, ruled that Smith’s emails “impair on the dignity” of Jewish people and are hate speech. Smith had “thrown the ‘Dictionary of Hate Speech’ against Jews, calling them ‘the enemy, dictators, murderers, war criminals, terrorists, torturers, rapists, thieves, dictators and dishonest.’” Moolman called Smith “a maverick campaigner” and ordered him to apologize to the Jewish community for the emails full of hatred. It was to be an “unconditional written apology, an unreserved withdrawal of all imputations within 10 days.” She went on to say “There is no place here for racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.”

In a statement, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies welcomed the judgment handed down in the Durban Equity Court. Mary Kluk said that minority groups are and remain protected within the law of the country by this important ruling. More than 10 days have passed. Smith said that he would be appealing the ruling.

Photos of the year

It is usual at this time, as 2015 came to an end, for newspapers to feature their stories that made the biggest impact and the best photos that they printed.

The Johannesburg Star is the largest English daily paper in South Africa, probably because Johannesburg is the largest city. It now comes out in the morning, despite its name, and has several editions during the day. (It started life as an evening paper, hence its name.) It tries to steer a middle path on the Israel- Palestinian issue, but like most of the South African media its true colors sometimes break through.

On December 23, page 5 was devoted to the “European Pressphoto Agency’s Photos of the Year.” Guess what the Photo of the Year was? Taking up half a page was this description of the prize photograph: “DISPERSING. An Israeli border-police vehicle shoots tear gas at Palestinians during clashes on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Friday last week.”

The picture itself is amazingly unclear, with nine or more pillars of rising white tear-gas smoke dominating the scene. In the background people seem to be standing or walking quite unconcerned except for a huddle of people on the left seen ducking.

A photo of the year indeed.

El Al chutzpah

Can we say that airplane hijacking originated in America? It seems that it started in Cuban-USA flights and vice versa but spread to Europe with the Arabs becoming prolific in hijacking and with El Al being very much targeted.

El Al practiced very strong security and in Johannesburg employed local people to work together with Israelis to closely inspect passenger luggage going into planes’ holds.

One Saturday night, as the El Al scheduled flight was getting ready to depart, the Israeli station manager discovered to his horror that an important document needed by the crew had been left behind. He called a South African who was working there on his first night’s employment and gave him the document and told him to rush out to the plane and hand it to a crew member.

The South African protested, “I’m new here and I don’t have an identity card yet.”

The station manager took one off another South African with that man’s photo gave it to the newcomer and said, “Here, take this one and go. The police will not know the difference.” The South African man was not happy, but he still went.

Duly the plane took off and it was the practice of the ground workers to remain for an hour in case it had to return for some reason. The hour passed and as the ground staff was departing the telephone rang. It was the South African Airport Police chief who wanted the El Al station manager to come urgently to his office.

He went to the police office and to his surprise he saw the South African man whom he had sent to the El Al plane with the vital document. He had been arrested.

The South African police chief was cross.

“Of all the airlines that come here,” he said, “I would not expect El Al to be so lax in security. In fact I am shocked. What have you got to say for yourself?”

The Israeli station manager was quite calm. He said, “I was testing South African security!” This was told to me by a local who worked for El Al ground staff.


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